New Year

I’m back. Thanks to irregular internet connections, I didn’t post a December report/January plan this month…may get around to it, but still mentally catching up, so may not. I drank a bit on vacation, but there were no major excesses (kept to my plan to limit “overages” to the 3-5 drink range; most “drinking days” were limited to a glass or two of local wine or beer with dinner; I said “no thanks” to many drinks; had more drinking days than I do during normal weeks, but still had plenty of days without any drinks at all). I did manage to practice abstinence in all the hotels we stayed in, which was a particular goal of mine…but one that felt so much easier than expected that I mostly forgot to celebrate it.

Mostly, I came away with the same thought I seem to have after every splendid vacation: as long as drinking never interferes with my fun (no hangovers, but also not prioritizing “finding a drink” or getting tipsy over other, more meaningful, opportunities), I just don’t feel too worried about it one way or another during a trip. I’m not perfect, and I’m never going to be, but working to learn how to moderate seems to have improved my self-control considerably, and I felt very good about the feeling of confidence I carried with me on my travels. For instance, ordering a glass of wine and not needing to worry that it would mean a whole night spent drinking my way to bed…huh, another thing I forgot to celebrate, since it just seems normal now.

Instead of picking apart my travel experiences, I find myself thinking ahead to the new year. I’m coming up on my one year anniversary of practicing moderation; I think the second year is looking pretty promising. I’m also finding myself examining other aspects of my life, and looking to apply the lessons I’ve learned. I suppose it all comes back to balance, as usual.It’s that time of year, isn’t it? Even if you never make New Year’s resolutions (and I never do), it’s so easy to get caught up in the sense that each year is another opportunity to try to open ourselves up in some new way. I’m enormously proud of the changes I’ve made to my drinking in the past year, even if I still think there’s room for improvement (will I ever really feel like I’ve got it? Not sure, honestly).

But it’s the other changes that really delight me, the ones that aren’t strictly about drinking, except that they are. The way my partner and I are kinder to each other now, even with our regular cranky moments. The way we spend more time doing real things, like going for walks or having conversations. The way my mind bubbles with thoughts about interesting things, like books I am reading, things I want to write, art I want to make, hikes I want to take, dreams I want to explore. The ways I have grown in confidence, happiness, and control.

Naturally enough, I’m in the middle of a mid-January burst of enthusiasm for building even better habits in the upcoming year. I’m trying to apply the things I’ve already learned, like breaking goals into smaller pieces, and figuring out tiers of positive reinforcement, and so on.

This month’s project is focused on significantly trimming our budget so we can attain more financial freedom (a process that is shockingly similar to moderation!). It was inspired, in part, by the amazing amounts of money I’ve saved by not drinking it all away, but also by the fact that there’s just so many more things I want to do now. Mostly though, I landed on this project because I’ve started to realized how interconnected all the different aspects of my life really are, and I feel brave enough to deal with the challenges this presents. Something like eating more healthfully, for instance, relates to things like dining out less (which helps us save more), but also might make me think about how I’m spending my evenings, and whether dining out is sometimes just a “treat” I’m using to try to ameliorate some stress I could address more directly, and the dynamics in my relationship, and perhaps dozens of other things. Or maybe it’s not that complicated, but if it is, I think it’ll be okay.

It all turns out to be a way of being kind to myself. After all those years of feeling bad, drinking, and then feeling bad about drinking, this continues to be a liberating concept. I’m not interested in beating myself up for past spending excesses, or vowing to never spend another dollar again. I just want to look at the big picture, to consider my deeper priorities, and find ways to tug my life into slightly better alignment with them. Which might mean cutting out something I used to think I couldn’t live without, or maybe learning how to make it just an occasional treat, or finding some totally new thing that I’ll find I like better, I don’t know. Mostly, it means learning to accept that I’m definitely not going to get it absolutely right, but I can learn to be gentle with myself about mistakes, and not let them knock me completely off course. See, I told you it was exactly like moderation 😉

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